It was just another Tuesday night in the NBA. The Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George hit his fourth buzzer-beater of the year to prevent the Houston Rockets from clinching the second seed in the West, while the Detroit Pistons mounted their largest halftime comeback since 1989 to stay a game ahead of the Charlotte Hornets for the final playoff spot in the East. Oh, yeah, NBA legends Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki also each scored 30 points in their respective last home games in Miami and Dallas.
Jamal Crawford got in on the fun with 51 points in a showdown with Nowitzki and dazzling rookie Luka Doncic, who happened to deliver his eighth triple-double of his epic rookie season, as he now has the third-most triple-doubles ever by a rookie while also passing Magic Johnson for the most triple-doubles before age 21 in league history. ESPN Stats & Info found that Crawford, at 39, is the oldest player to ever score at least 50 points in a game and his 51 marks the most ever off the bench in NBA history. Crawford is now the only player ever to score 50 for four different franchises. Can you guess the four teams? (answer in the Takeaways section below).
Tuesday saw three players aged 37 or older score at least 30 points. For some measure of context, no player 37 or older had scored 30 in a game since Kobe Bryant's 60-point farewell performance in 2016, per ESPN Stats & Info. In what he declared as the final home game of his career, Nowitzki (40 years, 294 days) became the oldest player in NBA history to score 30 points in a game, surpassing Michael Jordan who was 40 years, 20 days old on March 9, 2003. For one final night, at least, Jamal, Dwyane and Dirk were prime fantasy forces.
Jamal Crawford, Phoenix Suns: 51 points (18-30 FG), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 TO
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks: 21 points (6-14 FG), 16 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals, 4 TO
Wayne Ellington, Detroit Pistons: 7 points (1-11 FG), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 TO
The Rockets had a chance to claim the 2-seed in a contentious conference, but George's game-winner in the final seconds spoiled those plans. George is now 4-of-8 on go-ahead field goal attempts in the final 10 seconds this season after going 0-of-15 in his first seven seasons. Russell Westbrook had his 137th career triple-double, one shy of Johnson for second-most in NBA history. Oscar Robertson holds the record with 181.
James Harden had his 57th 30-point game in the loss, third-most in any season since the 1976 NBA and ABA merger, and the most since Michael Jordan tallied 59 such games in 1987-88. Harden finishes the season averaging 36.1 PPG, the most since Jordan in 1986-87 (37.1 PPG).
The Jazz are impressively 13-2 in their past 15 games and currently sit fifth in the West. Mitchell tied his career scoring high in the win over Denver last night and became the first Jazz player with multiple 45-point games in a season since Karl Malone in 1995-96.
DeMarcus Cousins posted a full line that included 21 points, 12 rebounds and 6 dimes in his first game in New Orleans since leaving in free agency as the Warriors downed the Pelicans. The fun fantasy angle is Jahlil Okafor's revival as a low-post scoring force continued as he tallied 30 points and seven rebounds in the second-highest scoring performance of his career. Once the Pelicans fully hit reset and deal Anthony Davis (and potentially Jrue Holiday) this summer, younger pieces such as Okafor, Christian Wood and whatever prospects come back in those deals will make for an intriguing collection of fantasy assets to consider.
The Knicks' roster will likely look much different come July, but they'll still want to retain their most productive young and controllable players, such as Luke Kornet and Mitchell Robinson. We all know about Robinson's historic block rate and awesome upside in the years ahead, but Kornet merits some shine for his strong finish to this season; the second-year big has averaged 13.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.7 3PG and an awesome 3.2 BPG his past six games. This means this young duo has averaged 6.2 combined blocks during the Knicks' past six games. Assuming he has a substantial role in the rotation next fall, Kornet is a compelling 3-and-D sleeper to note for next season.
The Lakers' lost season got more surreal on Tuesday with Johnson's somewhat destabilizing and impromptu departure from his perch as the team's president, yet one bright spot amidst this forgettable finish to the season for the Lakers has been the play of Kentavious-Caldwell Pope and Alex Caruso. Caruso flirted with a triple-double and made his case for a full-time NBA gig next season, while KCP posted the top fantasy score among all small forwards on DraftKings for Tuesday's slate and heads into free agency this summer with some needed momentum.
This might just have been the curtain call for Crawford, as well, who floated in free agency throughout last summer until Phoenix made room for the savvy combo guard. If it is the end, Crawford merits praise for his awesome career as one of the league's truly prolific scoring microwaves, taking the baton from Vinnie Johnson and passing it to Lou Williams. To answer the trivia question from above, Crawford has scored at least 50 points for the Suns, Warriors, Knicks and Bulls. Crawford's 54 games with Golden State in 2008-09 makes this one tricky.
Injuries of note
Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) is listed as out for tonight's matchup with the Thunder. With the Bucks already set with the top overall record in the NBA, it wouldn't be surprising to see more of the team's core veterans rest tonight.
While not officially ruled out yet, we won't see Zach LaVine suit up for the Bulls in South Philly tonight, nor any of his ailing peers such as Otto Porter Jr. or Kris Dunn. It's unclear if the 76ers will play any of their top rotation players, including Joel Embiid, in this inconsequential final contest.
Stephen Curry's ankle seems good to go for the playoffs, but the Warriors will rest their superstar guard for tonight's season finale against the Grizzlies. Be prepared for a wave of prominent players to be ruled out tonight.
Analytics advantage for Wednesday
George wasn't the only clutch performer last night, as Portland's Maurice Harkless sank a game-winning shot as time expired to down the Lakers, becoming the first Trail Blazers player with a buzzer-beater since Damian Lillard in Game 6 of the first round in 2014 against the Rockets. Even amid a wave of significant injuries, the Blazers have won 10 of 12 games and are one of the rare teams fully incentivized to win tonight, as they can clinch the third seed in the Western Conference with a win and a win by the Nuggets.
Fueling a good deal of this recent success has been Enes Kanter capably replacing the rebounding production lost when Jusuf Nurkic suffered a season-ending leg injury a few weeks back. Kanter tallied 22 points and 16 boards last night in what was his third game with at least 20 and 15 in his past six games, all starts. Building around Kanter in DFS play tonight is driven by a specific analytics advantage, as tonight's foe, the Kings, rank 25th overall in rebounding percentage and 26th in defensive rebounding rate, signaling elite upside for Kanter on the glass this evening.
Top players to watch tonight
Mike Conley is unlikely to play for Memphis tonight; thus I'm going back to the Delon Wright well as an elite DFS building block and a key streaming option to conclude the campaign in a game against a defanged Warriors team likely to rest most key players. Wright has been a fantasy force of late, slashing for 18.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and 7.6 APG during his past five games, all starts, and yet is rostered in just shy of 27 percent of ESPN leagues as of Wednesday morning.
If Memphis finally moves Conley after multiple years of flirting with the premise, Wright, a restricted free agent this summer, could become an essential building block for Memphis and an exciting fantasy sleeper for 2019-2020.